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It’s Labour’s executive being sidelined in party management shenanigans

Exec Board

Spencer Livermore, who started work yesterday, may be a very decent person and turn out to be a first class election supremo for Labour, but the manner and circumstances of his appointment were disastrous for good governance in the Labour party, and an insult to the party’s elected national executive, as well as to its general secretary.

Livermore ‘s appointment was announced just over a month ago alongside the cabinet reshuffle. Unlike the general secretary and other strategic directors, he was appointed without any apparent process, without any consultation with or involvement by the national executive committee which has responsibility under its terms of reference for oversight of personnel functions including ensuring that “recruitment is fair and non-discriminatory“, oversight of equal opportunities policies and the staffing structure.

Where powers are delegated by the NEC, under the party rules, they are delegated through the general secretary. However, when party staff were told of Livermore’s appointment, it was Livermore who informed them – without Iain McNicol’s prior knowledge – that all staff would report through him not McNicol on any matters connected with the election (how much do most staff do that isn’t connected with the election you may ask). And he reports neither to McNicol nor to Tim Livesay, the Leader’s chief of staff, but directly to Ed Miliband and Douglas Alexander.

Up to now we have deliberately avoided commenting on the sidelining of Iain McNicol since doing so would have only undermined it further. Recent reports elsewhere mean that such restraint is pointless – we have unfortunately moved well beyond running “the risk of blurring proper lines of accountability and corporate governance“.

The whole board structure structure was imposed  on Iain McNicol following his appointment because he was not the candidate favoured by the Leader’s office. Although he did manage to displace the two deputy general secretaries, Chris Lennie and Alicia Kennedy, who he had inherited from New Labour days leading us to argue that the party machine was corrupt and rotten, he had foisted on him a board of seven, three of whose members sat in and really reported through the Leader’s office.

Now, with two vacant posts unfilled, they constitute a majority of the board and together with Spencer Livermore are the people who really run the party. To add insult to injury, Chris Lennie is being brought back as a “consultant” to cover the commercial/fundraising director’s post.

The power in the rulebook for the leader to appoint a campaign coordinator (although it is supposed to be exercised “in conjunction with the NEC“) was inserted into the rulebook with a tranche of additional centralising powers for the Leader as part of the Refounding Labour process by the other former deputy, Alicia Kennedy, who has been rewarded for her efforts with a seat in the House of Lords. No-one in the party had argued publicly for these powers, and there was no discussion of the need for them by the national executive, nor in the short debate at conference.

Labour’s national executive has been stripped of any real power and responsibility. Good governance has been destroyed in the process. The leader (or perhaps more importantly those who speak in the name of the leader) goes unchallenged at all times. Though it may have moved somewhat to the left, the party is now a more authoritarian party in its formal structure than at any time under New Labour. And with the authoritarianism comes the cheating and abuse of power that Iain McNicol was committed to eliminate but appears powerless to do so.

One Comment

  1. RedShift says:

    I like McNicol too. He seems a good bloke interested in empowering party members e.g. organising staff on the ground as opposed to giving orders from head office.

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